15th November 2017

Mentoring on the Student Leadership Programme

The Council of Deans of Health, with support from the Burdett Trust for Nursing, launched a Student Leadership Programme recently to build the capacity of nursing, midwifery and allied health students in leadership. This innovative initiative is developing students’ knowledge, skills and networks to enhance their leadership potential both as students and as professional practitioners, which will have a positive long-term impact on patient care and the delivery of the health service in the United Kingdom.

I was privileged to be selected as a mentor on this programme and have spent the last three months nurturing the leadership aspirations of two undergraduate nursing students, one from Robert Gordon University and the other from the University of Dundee. Through regular telephone and Skype calls over the last few weeks we explored the concept of being a leader from different perspectives and discussed what leadership characteristics students saw in practice that they could draw on. I also set my two mentee some goals to look at the evidence base for nursing leadership, which is still in its infancy, and brainstorm ways they could utilise and build on this. Sharing my own experiences of being a leader in education and research also had a positive impact as it encouraged both students to develop and implement their ideas and influence others to follow them.

As a mentor I was extremely impressed by the leadership qualities my two nursing students already had and were actively progressing in both their academic and clinical practice. In the few months I worked with Sophie she had designed a survey that she was about to distribute to nursing students to gauge extra support they needed in practice and had set up and run workshops to improve the numeracy skills of students struggling with drug calculations. Matthew on the other hand focused on being a role model for other nursing students and helped them develop their leadership qualities and was accepted onto the Common Purpose UK Leadership programme to learn to work internationally across cultures and other social boundaries. I also heard about the networking and personal development opportunities they received as part of the student leadership programme through a series of workshops and seminars in Birmingham and the final event in London in November.

Their passion and enthusiasm to become better leaders and make a difference to patient care and the student experience demonstrated the value of the Student Leadership Programme and the importance of nurturing and supporting those starting out in their careers. I would encourage other academics to sign up to the mentoring scheme as it is a great experience both personally and professionally and is helping to build the next generation of leaders in healthcare.

Siobhán O’Connor

Learning in Nursing, Edinburgh Napier University